BHS: Berkeley International High School (BIHS)

Parent Q&A

How easy is it to get into IB program as a HS Senior Feb 10, 2021 (1 responses below)
How hard is it to get into Berkeley High IB program (BIHS)? Feb 29, 2020 (2 responses below)
BIHS next year Mar 11, 2019 (4 responses below)
Berkeley High -- BIHS Feb 14, 2017 (1 responses below)
Sciences at Berkeley International High School Aug 23, 2016 (5 responses below)
BIHS for IEP student Jul 4, 2016 (2 responses below)
  • Asking for a friend who is moving to Berkeley -her son has been in an IB program up to now and would like to get into the IB program at BUSD. He will be a senior. Does anyone know how easy it is to get in - BUSD admissions is not returning her calls.


    I have a Junior in the AC program at BHS. My guess is it wouldn’t be difficult to get into IB. It isn’t the most impacted program. If he wanted the CAS or AMPS program, that would be difficult. IB? There’s always space. 

  • We still have a few years until high school, but our child is very interested in attending an IB program.  We currently rent in Oakland and would be willing to move to Berkeley and rent there for the 4 years of high school.  If we are going to make such a big move however, I'd like to first get a better sense of just how hard it is to get into the program.  I've gotten somewhat conflicting information on that, particularly since they overhauled the program a few years back, so wanted to see if people have any more information to share:  1.  How hard is it to get into the BIHS program?  If you don't get into BIHS after 9th is it even possible to try again, given the progressions?  2.  When would we need to move to Berkeley in order to enroll in Berkeley High for freshman year?  3.  Any other advice from families that know BIHS, any particular courses or areas he should be focusing on if he wants to do IB in high school?  We're at a public middle school in Oakland right now.  We had hoped that the planned IB program at Skyline would be up and running by the time we reached high school, but it doesn't seem to be happening.

    As of right now, it is not difficult to get into at all. My sophomore is in AC, but everyone she knows who put IB as a first choice got it. Many who didn't even want IB got it. You register for high school in Jan/Feb of 8th grade, so you would want to move by then. But I'm sure many people move to the district after the enrollment date, so it's probably not an issue. 9th grade is now Universal 9th grade, so he wouldn't be in a small school until 10th grade. 

    As you may already know, all students at BHS now start their 9th grade year in "universal 9th grade" and don't enter their small school communities until 10th. After 9th grade, it is a lottery system..... so it is hard to say how hard it is to get into the program. For example, my daughter and 4 of her friends did *not* put BIHS as their first choice (they put AC.... you have to rank BIHS and AC if you don't choose any of the smaller learning communities), and she and her friends all got placed into BIHS. None of them wanted it. 

    My daughter started in BIHS as a freshman before this universal 9th grade thing they now have in place. She initially liked BIHS, but she ended up transferring out her junior year because she didn't like the lack of flexibility around what courses you could take in 11th/12th and she did not want to do the IB diploma. She wanted to take more science classes and BIHS is very humanities-focused, which is just not her thing. She knows quite a few kids who transferred out junior year, so if you wanted to get *in* junior year, it would maybe be pretty easy!

  • BIHS next year

    (4 replies)

    My daughter was placed in BIHS next year, which was her first choice.  I'm excited and concerned for her as I've heard many things about how stressful the workload is at BIHS.  I've heard a lot of "worst-case scenarios" about kids feeling really stressed and up until 2AM - having increased anxiety due to the challenging curriculum.  She's a good student, and very capable, but it comes with effort on her part and she does run towards tightly wound.  So far, the universal 9th grade curriculum hasn't  seemed that challenging for her and the homework load has been pretty light.  She is participating in crew and wants to continue with it next year - I would love her to continue so long as she can still get a good night's sleep and maintain her sense of well-being. Any information that can shed light on navigating the demands of BIHS - and some reality checks around what those demands are is greatly appreciated.

    RE: BIHS next year ()

    Our sophomore in BIHS is handling it well - conscientious but not an academic star, so has to work at things - good about staying on top of homework, starting on Friday and Saturday for Monday, that kind of thing. Very manageable so far, never in bed late, getting A's, does a sport three nights a week. It definitely gets harder next year, but students do ease into it year by year so it's not full-on all at once.

    RE: BIHS next year ()

    Hi, my daughter is a junior IB student. I think it's a good program with interesting classes, very inquiry based (which works for my daughter, but maybe not for everybody). She also will have access to subjects that she would never study otherwise (like Theory of Knowledge). It requires work but nothing impossible (my daughter is part of a dance company which takes her a lot of time and it is doable to do both). What is more challenging is the IB diploma but she can decide if she goes for the diploma or not. You can also only take some IB classes exams (and it will still give you credit when applying for college) but not go for the whole diploma (which of course is better but more stressful). She can decide all that along the way. Anyway, it's a great chance to have a public school offering the IB. People pay tons of money for IB programs offered almost only in private elite schools. So consider yourself lucky! Your daughter did an excellent choice! 

    RE: BIHS next year ()

    My son was a reluctant convert to BIHS, iffy about it for two years and then really dialed into the Theory of Knowledge curricula. He seems pleased about his choice in retrospect. He never got swamped by homework before senior year, when he took AP Physics and AP Calculus. He never went to bed after midnight and usually by 10:30. Participated passionately in his sports team for four years and the jazz program for four years. The senior year thing is a killer, because they are applying to college and experiencing senior-itis. But there is still an emphasis on taking these challenging courses. I suspect that issue would be the same regardless of which program you select. Good luck to her, I'm sure she can handle it.

  • Berkeley High -- BIHS

    (1 reply)

    Could someone please give us some feedback on BIHS at Berkeley High?  My daughter is considering it as her first choice, but is now hesitating as she has heard from "friends of friends" and "other people" who had conflicting experiences there.  


    BUSD Parent

    RE: Berkeley High -- BIHS ()

    This is just a huge topic and you will get as many answers as there are students in the program. I believe that you can find many past posts that will cover this topic if you search BPN. Personally, we have two kids in BIHS, a senior and a sophomore, and it has been a good experience for both of them. They have had challenging and interesting classes, appreciate and have benefitted from the international perspective offered in many classes, have not had any issues with the distribution requirements and have thrived. Students are able to take different levels of classes in math, science and language. The school is working hard to attract and, more importantly retain, students of color. I have heard that bubbling the IB requirements and jazz and/or orchestra and still get the IB Diploma can be a challenge. That was not an issue for my kids. They have both participated in sports in and out of school as well as other time-intensive BHS activities. Each student will vary of course in how much they can and want to handle in terms of level of courses and additional activities. There are a few teachers that have been a bummer - in English, math (which is not just a BIHS issues) and one in Spanish. This problem transcends anything particular to BIHS. On the other hand, they have also had some just fantastic teachers in science and the humanities. As you ask around you will hear countless answers. Know your kid, look at the online data and know each person will have their own experience. It has been quite good for my kids. 

  • My daughter is an incoming freshman at Berkeley High school within BIHS. She wants to take the most challenging math and science classes available to her, and also go for the full diploma. I now realize that within BIHS, no science is offered at the higher level, and only biology or chemistry are offered on standard level. Moreover, physics is not offered at all within the IB program (but was a few years ago). It looks like she could take AP physics C in senior year on top of all the IB requirements BUT without having had any physics high school courses in prior years. Can someone who has had students interested in the sciences at BIHS tell me what they did? The IB organisation provides a science option within the IB program but it looks like that Berkeley High school did not implement it. 

    -Interested in sciences within IB 

    Hi there,

    I have two kids in BIHS, an incoming senior and incoming sophomore. There absolutely is higher level science offered in BIHS. Please check out the BHS Course Catalog (available on the BHS website) and look at the BIHS course progression. Courses labeled IB are (relatively) equivalent to AP courses, and are very challenging. If your student is interested in challenging science courses, they can take AP Chemistry their sophomore year, and then in junior year they can take two IB science courses, and more in senior year if they wish. Also, not every student in BIHS chooses to go for the diploma. For those who do, the IB diploma requirements do not begin until junior year. As long as they are fulfilled, a student can organize their schedule any way they wish. For more information, I urge you to check out the BIHS website:

    For more in-depth information about IB diploma requirements, go here:

    I also urge you to contact Chris Young, the IB coordinator, with any questions: chrisyoung [at] and to consider joining the BIHS Etree and the Parent Action Group.

    I can't speak for BHS, but I did IB in a similar situation (no high-level sciences, a standard IB Physics program, and a separate AP Physics C option), and at least there me and my peers skipped straight to AP Physics C (in addition to other normal IB requirements) and did just fine without a prior physics class. The only catch was making sure you either had calculus under your belt or were simultaneously taking calculus (since this was a common choice, our school structured the IB Calculus class in such a way that we hurried and covered the important basics [basic derivatives and integrations] so that we could do AP Physics C just fine).

    Hope things work out for your science-interested kid!


    I have a senior and a sophomore in BIHS. The eldest is on track for the diploma and the sophomore intends to get it too. So far the science department experience at the school has been good. My eldest had 9th grade bio and 11th grade IB Enviromental Science with the same teacher. Mr. Campisi is the only IB teacher teaching IB Enviro and is both a good teacher and an incredibly enthusiastic one. He really cares about the kids succeeding. The IB Bio teacher, Nick Plescak (sp?) is reputed to be just excellent and the course is supposed to be quite hard. It is true, there is no longer an HL level IB science course and that is really too bad. My eldest is going to take AP Physics during the senior year regardless of not needing science for the diploma at this point and that will be on top of three other HL level courses. It is a big load. I have heard that IB SL Bio combined with HL level math the junior year is onerous but the right path for some kids. I am grateful that BIHS offers a range of difficulty levels for the students so they can be in the program and complete it, diploma or not, at the appropriate level of intensity for their learning styles and interests. My child chose not to continue with HL math and found SL math super easy. Just one student's experience of course but it was one way to balance everything out and still participate in lots of activities, take some courses that were more challenging and try to keep some sanity during junior and senior year. Good luck!

  • BIHS for IEP student

    (2 replies)

    my grand daughter who has an iep and is shy with social fears was placed in ib her 4th non choice. She will know many students there but they have gone on to others etc. I understand that the teaching is geared to academically advanced students and worry she will not comprehend. There is some problem in that area also. She wanted aha mostly or cas where she won't know anyone but likes art and video and the idea of a small school. Would like some feedback about ibs and iep and students such as my GD. Thank you

    RE: BIHS for IEP student ()

    Your granddaughter might just flourish in the BHS IB program! She won't see anymore or less of her old friends there & she will be busy  with interesting school projects & make new friends.  I doubt they'll let you transfer now but if it's unbearable after the first school year, you can put in for transfer to AHA, which also has a good reputation.  From our experience at BHS, the IB program gets better every year. Good luck! I urge you to encourage your granddaughter to get to know her advisor. 

    RE: BIHS for IEP student ()

    I have a son with an IEP who is in IB. It really is not that hard. Even he admits he did very little homework in Fresh and Sophomore years. Stay on top of the IEP! If they want to drop it, say you want an IEE and mean it! Then they may say to just stay with the IEP - if it really is needed.

Parent Reviews

My son is in BIHS. He had a great freshman biology teacher (until his wife had a baby and he was stressed and spacey all the time, which is understandable given BHS teaching loads). He also has Matt Bissell for chemistry. His experience so far has been that the tests are not always representative of what was taught, especially the free response, and that the grading is very hard. He appreciates the opportunities for extra credit and uses all of them and thus has a strong grade. He wonders if taking AP chemistry would have been better (since he puts the work in anyway), however, at the parent meeting the BIHS staff strongly discouraged having our kids sign up for it. He is really looking forward to AP anatomy and AP Environmental studies next year.

I have an 11th grader at BHS who just switched from BIHS to independent study.  Although she was in BIHS, she took AP science classes her sophomore year (chemistry) and her junior year (physics).  They have been plenty challenging, even for very strong students.  I also recently heard good things about AP biology, which she plans to take next year.  Ninth-grade biology was a bust (rotating cast of substitutes), but once she got into the AP science classes, they've been good.

My daughter is finishing up at BHS and has loved some of the advanced science courses that she's been able to take (especially AP Chemistry).  She's now planning to be a STEM major.  

Unfortunately, what I've heard is that if she had been in one of the small schools she wouldn't have been able to take those classes - or at least not at the pace that she did. So you have to be careful about the implications of the lottery choice you make (I really wish they would do away with that 9th grade lottery system as they've been discussing!). I believe that one option is to take classes at the local community college, but that could be difficult for a high school sophomore or junior. That said, I should also say that my daughter thinks that CAS is a wonderful school with a very supportive cohort of kids and teachers, based on what she's heard from her friends.

My daughter chose BIHS, and while the international focus and many good teachers has been nice, it's been very difficult to meet all the requirements, and she wishes that her high school years had been less stressful. Segregation is also a major issue at Berkeley High, and BIHS has many more white kids than the general school population, which is alienating for many students of color and anyone who is seeking to learn in a diverse environment. If we had to do it over again we would probably chose AC.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Discussions on this Page


Sept 2015

RE: Berkeley High or a private school without Common Core?

My daughter is a sophomore at BHS, in IB. If your daughter is used to Lamorinda and private schools, BHS will be a huge culture shock, just in how diverse the population is. And it's just a HUGE school...thousands of kids. My daughter went to public Berkeley schools from Kindergarten, is quite social, and STILL had a hard first few months at BHS. She is happy this year in IB, though, and is definitely finding her social niche, but it was a big adjustment. She says most of her teachers are very good, knowledgable, and responsive to her. There is a LOT of homework compared to middle school, but she is inspired by the teachers, and wants to please them, and is, so far, doing well. She also has many hours of her sport each week, so as time goes on, we will see if she is able to manage it all.

Just know that your daughter may not get her first choice of IB; if she wants a large school, she will need to list both AC and IB, and will be assigned to one of them. My daughter has friends in AC who love it too. I recommend the large schools over the small schools, as socially, the small schools can be stifling. I have heard rumors that BHS is gradually going to phase out AC, eventually converting the whole school to IB, because IB is exempt from the Common Core requirements, but that may be just a rumor...hopefully someone more knowledgeable on BPN here will chime in... Best of luck with your decision. BHS mom

Your question is all over the map but I wanted to give my 2 cents. I'm a BHS parent in the IB program and happy with our experience so far, but no way would I move out of your school district just to attend BHS. If she wants diversity and new experiences, she could apply to study abroad someplace for a year or hunt around for an unusual volunteer experience. If she's as bright as you say she is, I would imagine she'd find a great fit in one of the private high schools you mentioned. Sure she could make something good happen for herself at BHS but it would be a major struggle for her to be able to enroll in the advanced classes she probably wants.
The grass ain't greener over here.

May 2015

RE: Unmotivated & lost, but smart, at BHS...

I have two kids in IB, and I have heard from MANY others that the small schools have too many unmotivated kids (I have seen it first hand to when a Writer's coach at the old Green Academy). Your child has gone through a hard stretch of the small school and then independent study, but IB is great!! I have this feeling she may really love it, once she is adjusted in there. If your kid does okay in school, IB is really, really not that hard (I have a Senior and Sophomore in it). Junior year can be tough, but that's really the only one. Thanks. Happy

BIHS IB Diploma--is it possible?

April 2015

I have a question for parents whose sons/daughters have pursued and/or attained the IB diploma through the IB program at Berkeley High.

My son was advised by an independent college counselor (who is familiar with BHS and the BIHS program) to go for the IB diploma because college admissions look favorably upon the endeavor (although I've read elsewhere that the IB diploma is not actually awarded until the following fall after the student's high school graduation, presumably after the student has already been admitted to and enrolled in college).

I had assumed that since IB was a set curriculum, BIHS students would take a series of IB exams in subjects in the offered curriculum, and if they scored above a certain level across the exams, then they would be awarded the IB diploma. I've since learned that the student must take exams in three SL classes and three HL classes in order to attain the IB diploma, so that involves some strategic selection of courses up front.

To make a long story short, it appears that my son, a junior in BIHS, will be one HL class short in his senior year of being eligible to take the full series of IB diploma exams because (1) he is not on the honors math track and will take SL Math 2 in his senior year instead of HL Honors Math 2; (2) he is currently in French 7/8, but does not plan to continue to AP French next year, and would be ineligible from taking the HL French exam anyway since he is taking the SL French exam this year; (3) other IB HL courses (IB music, IB computer science) are offered in a two-year progression, and he did not take the first course this year so is ineligible to take the second course in the progression next year.

I suppose I should have done my homework up front, but I'm only realizing now that IB diploma candidacy is not open to all BIHS students. Is this why there is the perception that the pursuit of the IB diploma involves the most rigorous high school course work available? Has my son taken himself out of eligibility for the IB diploma by not being on the honors math track and by not electing to take AP French next year? (For the record, he has taken other AP and honors-level science courses, but none applicable toward the IB exams offered.)

Of course, if your student is a top student in BIHS, it would be given for him/her to test for the IB diploma. However, if your student is a good BIHS student, but not a top student, did the pursuit and awarding (or not) of the IB diploma make a difference one way or another in his/her high school academic and college application experience?

I think he will be fine either way. I'm interested to hear other parents' advice and opinions. Thanks. BIHS Parent

You are correct that your son would need to take at least 3 HL exams to qualify for the IB Diploma. However, only about a quarter to a third of the students in BIHS decide to pursue the diploma, because they have interests that make scheduling classes specifically to qualify for the diploma difficult, and from what I can observe, if they are a good student they are not disadvantaged by that choice. Another 40% to 50% of students take at least one IB exam and earn a certificate, which is roughly the equivalent of taking an AP exam from the perspective of most colleges (with lots of nuances.)

Most IB programs in the country are very small and selective, unlike Berkeley High's. Consequently, college counselors tend to have the perspective that if you are enrolled in an IB program you are disadvantaged if you don't go for the diploma. Berkeley chose to implement the program in a way that makes the excellent curriculum available to a wide range of students, and to make pursuing the diploma one of the many goals students may have. Students can also obtain IB Certificates in the IB classes they take, if they take the exam, so your son may take up to 5 rather than 6 IB exams, and will add to that any AP exam results he may have. And, even students who take no exams get the benefit of the curriculum, and the boost to their GPA for having IB designated courses on their transcript.

You should keep in mind that colleges will look at your son's full transcript, and will see that he had a wide range of honors classes. If he is not interested in taking HL French, which is likely the only option at this stage for getting the third HL exam,in addition to English and History that all BIHS students qualify for, I really wouldn't worry about it. He should take the classes he's interested in and that he will do well in.

Students who are interested in pursuing the diploma really should map out their plan at least in 10th grade so they take the classes that will qualify them for the exams. They can always decide they don't want to try for the diploman later, but if they aren't at the right level in each of the six subject areas, they won't be eligible. There is an excellent Powerpoint deck on the BIHS web site from the IB Diploma information night that was held last October. Sandi

My daughter, currently in college, intended to go for the IB diploma. In the end, she
didn't, because she didn't think it mattered vis-à-vis getting into college, and she
wasn't willing to take a 4th year of French. She talked to a girl in the first
graduating class of BIHS, who did get the diploma, but said that if she had to do it
over, she wouldn't go for it, since it didn't matter for getting into college. One
thing you didn't mention is that a longer essay is also required if your student
wants the diploma. My other daughter, currently a sophomore in IB, doesn't want the
diploma either.
BIHS mom

It is true that the diploma is not awarded until the summer when students have already been accepted or rejected by colleges. My son did pursue the diploma (and got it) but actually felt like it made little to no difference in his college acceptances. And this is after over a thousand dollars in tests and fees.

He had to take a bunch of AP exams in addition to his IB exams in his Junior year because you can't get college credit for SL classes/tests. In fact, passing 4 HL tests (Senior year) still did not earn him college credit, and he now wishes he took the AP tests in addition to all the IB HL tests. So my question is, what was the point of the IB tests?

It took me multiple meetings every year with the IB Coordinator to make sense of the crazy, often conflicting, IB requirements, which were actually made even more complicated by my son being in a very high math track. The classes and tests he would take had to be very carefully orchestrated starting in 10th grade. You have to pay lots of attention and map out your schedule years in advance.

We were told the same thing by a private college counselor about the diploma being the new ''sexy thing'' in college admissions, but as far as I can tell, my son had pretty much the same college admission results as kids who either were not in IB or who did not pursue the diploma. Which leads to my second question, what was the point of the IB diploma?

So it is possible? Yes. With lots of planning, lots of testing, and lots of money, it is totally do-able. Is it worth it? Of that, I am much less convinced. --Just my perspective

 This is a response to the parent who said ''not even the HL exams he took counted for college credit.'' I've reserched dozens of colleges and universities, and have consistently found that if a college provides credit for a passing score on an AP exam they also provide credit for a passing score on an IB HL exam. Some provide credit for a passing score on certain SL exams, although many schools require that the student provide the curriculum that was covered. So, if your son didn't receive credit his scores may not have been high enough, assuming the college he's attending grants AP credit. Some schools don't grant any AP or IB credit, but allow the credits to satisfy prerequisite or mandatory class requirements, allowing students to bypass some of the Freshman classes. Anyone interested in understanding more about how colleges grant credit for AP or IB exams can find the information on each school's web site, typically by searching within the site for AP / IB Credit. For IB specifically the IBO web site provides information on how universities grant credit Sandi

BHS - BIHS/IB Course Progression in Math 

Jan 2015

My son is a BHS sophomore in BIHS. He has taken Honors Geometry and is now in Honors Algebra 2. Got an 'A' Freshman year and is getting an 'A' this year despite two years of pretty bad teachers. He has expressed that he no longer wants to continue on the honors track next year. He is just not that interested though he knows he wants to take math all four years and aspires to go to a top school. My questions are these?

When I look at the course catalog for BIHS it seems that there are just two tracks available - the IB SL or IB HL tracks for Junior and Senior years. It is totally unclear as to whether IB students can take Honors Math Analysis, AP Statistics or any other options.

Also, for a student aiming high in terms of colleges (yes, I know that there are lots of routes to a good and satisfying life but am just putting it this way for this post) is it misguided to ''drop down'' to the SL track for math as opposed to the HL track? How much less work might the SL track be? The descriptions in the catalog are almost identical and it is hard to know what the material translates to for those of us that used terms like Trigonometry, Math Analysis, etc when we were in high school. Thanks for all thoughts on this topic. Curious about BIHS Math

The best way to understand the BIHS math progression is to think of IB Math SL culminating in the equivalent of Calculus A/B, while the IB Math HL culminates in the equivalent of Calculus B/C. If your child wants to obtain the IB Diploma, which requires an exam in math, they also have the option of taking IB Math Studies, which translates roughly as Math Analysis. All BIHS students also have the option of taking AP Stat, or other math classes offered in Academic Choice. As to what colleges think of taking a lower level math class (lower than IB Math HL) I know a number of students who got into highly selective schools but chose a different math track. In terms of the experience, one of my children took IB Math HL and had a great experience, and some of the best math teachers in the school. My other child took IB Math SL and had a miserable first year, and chose to take IB Math Studies for their senior year. The class is really too easy for her, but on the other hand, its an easy A and last year's stress of really not connecting with her teacher is not an issue. She chose Math Studies because she was worried she would have the same teacher for a second year. She also is not intersted in pursuing math or science in college, so the level of math she takes in high school is less important.
There will be an information night for this year's parents of Sophomores in February, before course selections are made for next year. If you have additional questions I recommend you attend that meeting. The date will be announced on the BIHS etree. BIHS parent

SL1 and Math Analysis are equivalent courses with SL1 including some statistics, and Math Analysis including more work on vectors. SL2 is equivalent to Calc AB with some statistics. There are also students from SL1 who go on to AP Stat if they aren't going for the diploma. Every year there are students from IB SL2 at BHS who go on to Ivies (for the last two years there were students from SL2 who went on to Harvard, Brown, Columbia, and Barnard), Stanford, the Claremont Colleges, UCB and UCLA as well as other highly competitive private and public universities. The BIHS average score on the IB SL2 test is significantly above the international average. Assuming your son continues to have close to a 4.0 and some serious activities or sports he should be a good candidate at any college. anon

Hi, my son graduated in 2014 and here is his answer: It depends on if your son wants to get the IB diploma. If the answer is yes, then he must take the 2 year SL sequence or the 2 year HL sequence. If he doesn't care about the diploma, he can take any math classes he wants to. He also says that in the last years, the honors math analysis teachers have all been good and he can always drop down after that year if he still doesn't like it. My second son is in AC, but faced the same dilemma as your son, whether or not to continue in honors math analysis or drop to regular and go on to take AP Calc AB. Despite the urging of his teacher to continue with honors, he chose regular and now regrets it because it is not as challenging.

This is not an answer about BIHS but is information about math at BHS. My daughter took AP
Statistics senior year as she did not think she would succeed at either level of calculus.
She adored Mr. Goldman, who was truly her first math teacher at BHS who was not awful.
(''Mom, can you imagine where I would be if I had gotten even one good math teacher before
senior year?'') Her college major is a social science and that stat class has been
invaluable. I know this info does not speak to the math progression at BIHS but it may be
helpful to someone.
former BHS parent

List IB as only choice to guarantee entrance?

Jan 2011

We are relocating to Berkeley from the east coast. Our daughter has attended a private international school since the 4th grade and has participated in IB for 5 years, now as a 9th grader.

We are interested in BIHS for her, but specifically the IB Program. I have just learned that getting into the program would be based on chance, due to the lottery system. This is not a gamble we can take, since she has invested so much time into IB and does not want to change that now and it leaves us in an awkward situation.

If she puts IB as her first and only choice, is she guaranteed in as a 10th grader next fall or is that even an option? Since she has been in IB for 5 years, can that give her priority or not? Since we are not even residents yet, and will be new to the area do we not have as good a chance as returning students? We would likely not move until July/August or so.

Thank you in advance!

My daughter is in 9th grade at BIHS; it seems to be a good choice so far esp. if she is strong in language arts; they seem to have some very good core teachers. Getting in is a bit of a gamble as they have a hard to understand lottery system which is weighted in favor of kids already attending Berkeley public schools and then by some socio-economic and geographic zones. Your best bet is to contact the IB vice-principal or coordinator by e-mail or phone - see and perhaps arrange to meet them in person. You may also be referred to the Admissions Office (which is separate from all the schools) for your admissions questions and most likely you will not get an answer you can fully understand from this office. anon

Because you haven't relocated yet, I thought I'd let you know that Miramonte High School, another public school in the East Bay (in Orinda), offers an IB degree. A neighbor's daughter went there and got hers. I am 90 percent sure that you do not have to enroll in a special program. I don't think it would hurt to call the school and ask about it as long as you are gathering information.

Orinda is a suburb in the East Bay, just east through the Caldecott Tunnel (or over the Oakland/Berkeley hills). It is less racially diverse and more affluent than Berkeley, but it is pretty nice community and close to a lot.


It's true that if you don't join the lottery by the Feb/March deadlines, your student will be entered in a later lottery, and consequently has a reduced chance of getting one of their top two choices.

As to the IB program specifically, you can't evade the lottery by listing BIHS as the only option on the lottery form. You are required to list both of the two larger programs, Academic Choice (AC) and the IB program (BIHS). You may also list any of the four smaller programs if desired. The lottery attempts to give you a top choice, but may place you in any program you list on the form. However, for late arrivals to the school, the space in many learning communities/programs may already be filled, and there's no telling where your student will end up, and it's not out of the question, I believe, for a student to be placed in a program s/he didn't list on the lottery form, if they are entered the lottery late. The student will have to stick with their assignment for the first year, and then can re-enter the next lottery to try to change programs. That said, since your daughter is coming in as a sophomore, my guess is there could be space in the IB program, as I understand that some people opt out of IB after the first year, but again, there is no guarantee.

While it's understandable that you would like to capitalize on the investment you made in the IB program at a previous private school, that is not an argument that will hold sway with BHS administrators, as the whole point of the lottery is to allow access to the programs across a range of socioeconomic groups. Berkeley High is unusual, perhaps unique, in making the IB program available by lottery rather than testing in to it. If priority for the IB program is given to those who have the economic means to have been in a private school, or have traveled abroad (another argument I've heard used), that would vitiate the premise behind the lottery.

If you want to guarantee placement into an IB program, you could continue to pay for private school, at the (French American) International School in San Francisco. It will also have the advantage of more choices and courses than Berkeley High can afford to offer. But if you want a publicly funded education, you'll have to take your chances with the BHS lottery. If your strong preference is the IB, you should just list the two required options, BIHS and AC, in that order. And if she is placed into AC, she'll still have many excellent options available to her.

Welcome to Berkeley....and good luck.... Natasha B, Berkeley High PTSA President

While 80 percent of students get their first choice placement for a smaller learning community at Berkeley High, and an additional 10 percent get their second choice, there is no guarantee that any one person will get their first choice. If a family is planning on coming to BHS, they have to be happy - or at least make peace with the possibility - of a second choice or even a third. Now, if they don't get their first choice, they can always try again the following spring. The commitment is for one year.

BIHS is an excellent program, but so are the other five options at Berkeley High School. All six offer the courses necessary to fulfill the University of California a-g requirements--that is requirements for the most selective colleges and universities in the United States. All six offer access to AP or IB courses--college level classes. All six have committed parents and enthusiastic students. And, finally, all six are part of greater Berkeley High sharing the same clubs, sports and performing art programs. It is a good all-around school. Janet H.

This is not exactly a response about IB but more a response about the lottery. I think this page is very clear:

I know of no way to assure acceptance in BIHS even though this poster has a great reason for wanting it. For anyone else wanting to understand the lottery, this sentence in Question #5 from that link may have the most important fact:

''Students may choose not to include a small school as one of their ranked choices, but they must include on their list Academic Choice and Berkeley International High School.'' SO - a student who only wants a large school definitely should NOT write down a 3rd choice. For those who are trying to weigh the differences between AC and BIHS, AC and BIHS both offer as challenging an environment as any high-achieving or academically motivated student could ever wish for. Both have very good teachers and a few clunkers, and both have ways to make the program feel more personal for its students. Both offer options for additional challenge (honors, AP, Higher Levels) and each has a fine reputation with colleges. They are, however, different in structure and prospective students should analyze those differences, since this will impact their overall educational experience (more structure and more required courses vs. more choice in how to fulfill requirements.) Anyone can google the IB curriculum; it is very prescribed and very demanding. Academic Choice is just that - having more choice about your academic classes. Reputations of the two go up and down, in and out of fashion. Reality is, with the new administration fixing a host of ills at BHS, both are stable, rigorous and excellent. One of those ills - the very unequal class sizes of 2009-10 - are that way no longer. Not perfect - what is? - but a great school now. Satisfied BHS parent

In last week's responses to a query re the IB program at BIHS ''anonymous'' wrote that the lottery system at Berkeley High School was weighted in favor on students currently enrolled in the BUSD. This is categorically not true: All students who are enrolled in the district by Feb. 17, 2011 are entered into the first round of the 2011-2012 lottery at the same time. Enrollment is now open for students who are not currently enrolled in the BUSD. Again, if you are enrolled by the 17th of February you go into the lottery at the same time as students from BUSD middle schools.

Finally, even if you do not get in the first round of the lottery (say you decide to come in the summer), your chances of getting your top one or two choices is still very high.

For a detailed explanation of how the lottery works, please go to: Janet H

Sorry, I am still in need of some clarification:

Is it GUARANTEED that a student who only lists AC or BIHS as choices will be placed in one of those schools? Or is there some risk that if we don't put down a ''smaller'' school as a third choice that he could possibly be placed in one of the smaller schools that needs someone in his ''diversity category''? Obviously, if there is risk of his being placed in any random ''smaller'' school, we would rather put down as a third choice one he would at least find tolerable. Are the ''smaller'' schools generally in greater demand?

I found the following earlier comments (pasted below) to be in conflict. One seems to be saying listing only AC & BIHS guarantees placement in one of those programs, while the other holds out the possibility of being put in your 3rd choice. If someone doesn't get their 1st or 2nd choice and hasn't listed a 3rd choice, it seems like they are setting themselves up to be put in a school they might not like at all.

Earlier comments: '''Students may choose not to include a small school as one of their ranked choices, but they must include on their list Academic Choice and Berkeley International High School.'' SO - a student who only wants a large school definitely should NOT write down a 3rd choice.''

''While 80 percent of students get their first choice placement for a smaller learning community at Berkeley High, and an additional 10 percent get their second choice, there is no guarantee that any one person will get their first choice. If a family is planning on coming to BHS, they have to be happy - or at least make peace with the possibility - of a second choice or even a third.''

Thanks in advance for clarification on this! Looking for clear answers

Question: Is it GUARANTEED that a student who only lists AC or BIHS as choices will be placed in one of those schools?

The answer is yes, it is guaranteed IF you get into the round #1 of lottery. The DEFINITIVE ANSWER is on the Berkeley High website #5: Students may choose not to include a small school as one of their ranked choices, but they must include on their list Academic Choice and Berkeley International High School.

Or here is a quote from an announcement on the school e-tree: How many small learning community choices may we list? Your child may list as many as six or as few as two. Students MUST list AC and BIHS, the two large programs, in the preferred order. If the student only wants those two then s/he only lists those two. If s/he wants one of the small schools s/he lists the small schools desired, in the preferred order, and then finishes off with AC and BIHS, in the preferred order. (BHS e-tree 2/4/11)

I wrote the following and I stand by it: SO - a student who only wants a large school definitely should NOT write down a 3rd choice.' satisfied BHS parent

Online International Baccalaureate program?

Nov 2010

Our daughter is a freshman in high school in a school district that does not have an international baccalaureate program. Her father is from overseas, and he was in the IB program in his high school, and thinks our daughter would enjoy the experience. Does anyone know if kids can participate in the international baccalaureate program online? Berkeley High has a program, but we live in El Cerrito. Thanks! IB mama

There is not an on-line version of the IB program. Having spent the last three years working with the Berkeley High BIHS program, I acquired a pretty good understanding of how it works. Unlike AP exams, which anyone can take regardless of whether they enroll in an AP prep class, students who take IB exams must be enrolled in a class taught by an IB-certified teacher. In addition to the final exam there are periodic ''internal assessments'' that students must take, and these have to be administered by an IB-certified teacher. The combination of the results of the internal assessments and the final exam are what create the students ''score'' for the exam.

There are some limited ways to accommodate classes not taught through a school program, but they still must be organized by an IB certified school. For example, there are a number of students in the BIHS program who came in with a number of years of experience with a language for which there is an IB exam, but that is not taught at Berkeley High. To accommodate those students BIHS implemented a policy to allow them to get outside tutors who were IB-certified and would be willing to administer the internal assessments. I believe the final exam was done on the regular IB exam schedule, established by the IBO, at Berkeley High.

You can find more information about the IB program at the IBO web site, and on the BIHS web site (, which also provides a link to the IBO site.

Having said all this, my daughter graduated from BIHS last year, and she got an excellent education that is serving her very well in college, particularly in history and writing. Sandi

Considering switching schools

Oct 2010

I would like to know what are the chances for my child to be placed into BIHS at Berkeley High via the lottery if it is our first choice. We are a Cauacasion, Berkeley Hills family. We have heard wonderful things and we have a child that needs challenge and looks forward to a big school next year. I am concerned that since the program is doing so well it might be oversubscribed for next year and it may impact our school choice. Also, does BIHS have the same socioeconomic balancing criteria as the BHS small schools? Any other BIHS hints, tips or caveats will be appreciated. Can't believe my baby is going to HS!

Here is what current BHS parents have been told recently: The lottery for Berkeley HS is supposed to be cleaned up for next year. The choices, and how to make them, will be made more obvious, the policies will be made more clear, the process is supposed to be less mysterious and more transparent. There could be some refinement to the process.

Your race does not matter when it comes to the lottery. Berkeley is divided into micro-districts (really - of only a few blocks) and those are based on census data. These are used by the lottery to achieve some kind of balance within each school and each program. So your address does have the most influence as a factor.

BIHS is a great program and is very challenging. So is AC. AC is a bit bigger (this year and last year) so it is statistically easier to get into if you live in the hills. Small schools will also tell you they are academically challenging but that doesn't seem to square with the experience of many students.

If the district changes any of the policies governing the BHS lottery next year then statistical likelihoods will change. Any student who only wants to be in AC or BIHS will get one of those choices though - that has been assured. However, for a student who has BIHS as a first choice - no one will be able to answer your question about ''chances.'' Your chances might be statistically better if you lived in certain parts of West Berkeley and that is about all anyone could speculate at this point.

Any student who wants a challenge will be challenged in BIHS or AC. BIHS has very limited course choices because its curriculum follows the international IB standards and students seem to agree that junior year is particularly gruelling. AC has many choices and that is how students achieve being challenged - by choosing more rigorous classes. That is the choice aspect of Academic Choice.

Many changes are taking place with the new principal Mr. Pasquale Scuderi so any facts or rumors that were happening during the Slemp years may be in flux or may no longer be true. much more satisfied BHS parent

I'll let others weigh in on pros and cons of BIHS, although there have been many discussions archived on the BPS website. But as to the chances of your child being assigned to BIHS? It's hard to say.

BIHS has been very popular, particularly among ''hills families'' recently, but it used to be that A.C. was, and who knows, maybe Green Academy or AHA or one of the other small schools will be in vogue next year. At any rate, since it's a lottery, in a way, it doesn't matter what your ''chances'' are, as there is no sure thing. Most kids get their 1st or 2nd choice school, but I don't know last year's breakdown as to first choice for those who selected BIHS. So don't base your decision on whether to send your kid to BHS based on ''chances'' of getting into a particular program. Find out about both A.C. and BIHS....both have pros and cons, depending on your kid. My youngest wanted BIHS but got AC and is really happy with all the options it provides.

By the way, up through this year, incoming students were required to list the two large programs, Academic Choice and BIHS, and optionally list any or all of the 4 small schools. Next year, rumor has it it could be that students will only be required to list A.C., and the rest could be optional. The reason for this would be that BIHS, like the small schools, restricts a students' curricular options to a smaller set of required classes, and not all students want that. If a kid is in BIHS, for example, it's really hard to fit in electives, P.E., really much of anything outside the IB curriculum.

As to your other questions - the lottery doesn't know that you're Caucasian. The lottery is not based on individual students' characteristics. It works the same way K-8 school assignments do, by using the demographic profiles of Berkeley neighborhoods (a few blocks at a time), in terms of education, ethnicity, and income in an attempt to balance each learning community (AC, AHA, BIHS, CAS, CPA, Green). So your address, not your family, determines how you are coded for lottery purposes.

Hope that helps. BHS Parent

I want to thank the respondants to this (my) question for your kindness, thoroughness and insight. We are particularly interested in the structured IB program for this particular child but I appreciate the reassurance regarding AC as well. It sounds like our younger child with performings arts interests may do better to choose AC for the elective time. Our school choice is bounded primarily by financial concerns but we want to be a comfortable as possible with choosing BHS, since we would need to work on the exams etc. for private schools soon (and then rob a bank or something). baby goes to HS

Considering switching schools

Oct 2009

Re: Switching Schools as High School Junior
I can't comment on whether your daughter should switch schools as a Junior, although it seems like a tough time to switch. But I wonder whether she's talked with any of this year's Seniors in the BIHS program, so she can know what to expect over the Junior and Senior year. If she pursues the IB Diploma she will have an incredibly challenging course load, which at the same time, is fantastically engaging, provided she's intersted in an international point of view. I'm sure many of the current Seniors would be happy to talk with her about how things progress. Ninth and 10th grade in BIHS are preparatory for the IB curriculum. International standards restrict the actual IB curriculum to 11th and 12th grade.

When my daughter, and I visited colleges last Spring when she was a BIHS Junior, nearly every admissions officer we talked with commented that achieving the IB Diploma represents completing the most challenging high school curriculum available. She's now doing the work to qualify for the Diploma, and finds it both really challenging and engaging.

I'm sure the counselors in the IB program can make arrangements for your daughter to talk to other students who are pursuing the Diploma. That may be a good first step before going down the path of switching schools. S.

Sophmore year and beyond at BIHS

April 2009

I read with interest the recent discussion here about the small schools at Berkeley High. I have a different type of question than the one previously discussed, although it does directly concern one of the programs at Berkeley High. Our daughter is completing her freshman year at the Berkeley High International School, and seems consistently under-challenged and disappointed at the lack of intellectual engagement in her core classes. I've been telling her that things will improve with time and that next year will be more difficult/challenging/engaging; on further reflection, I'm not sure whether that's really the case and I could just be expressing my hopes for next year rather than any real working knowledge. I'd really appreciate hearing from other parents and/or students in this program, and especially the experience of students further along - does it get harder? What is the Theory of Knowledge experience like? Any special teachers or aspects of the program to recommend? I ask these questions with a very great sense of appreciation for the challenges of teaching in a larger urban school, and think by and large the staff and faculty are doing a great job. So I am not here to seek disparaging comments but rather to learn more about what's ahead and help prepare my daughter accordingly. Big fan of the IB program

My son is concluding his sophomore year in BIHS and I couldn't have a more different perception of the program. In both his freshman year and this year his BIHS core teachers have been engaging, challenging and enthusiastic. He does find the work fairly easy, but the concepts and teachers make it personally enagaging and he is learning a lot. He has had to do ppt presentations and group work and has learned about concepts with respect to world politics, history and culture that frankly my daughter (now in college) was never taught. FWIW he has Mr Rodriguez, Mr Rogers, Mr. Liu and now Matt ??(economics). All terrific. Sorry I don't have any advice but I did want to write to offer another experience. satisfied parent of BIHS student

Yes - Sophomore year and beyond are very challenging and engaging in the BIHS program. This year's Juniors are the first class, so there's not yet been a Senior year.

Sophomore year - the students take Comparative Economic Systems, Comparative Beliefs, English and History as well as other classes outside of IB. These classes are well integrated, with the teachers working together to develop curriculum and class assignments and students are very engaged. There is lots of writing, thinking, and class discussion. My daughter came home most days with something new to talk about, and developed a strong interest in understanding how belief systems and economics affect how countries develop.

Junior year BIHS includes English and History, and also includes the IBCAS program that helps students identify ways to participate in the community. IBCAS entails 150 hours of Creativity, Action and Service, with students taking on individual activities. Students also begin work on thier Extended Essay, which is a 4,000 work essay on a topic of their choice. They read lots of books in both History and English and have great class discussions and writing assignments.

Next year as Seniors they get the opportunity to take Theory of Knowledge, and to complete the rest of the IB program, including finishing their IBCAS requirements, completing their Extended Essays, and deciding whether to take the exams that result in the IB Diploma.

In visiting colleges I've been told that the IB Diploma represents completing the most rigorous of high school programs. Not all of the students in IB will choose to take the exams, and they can choose to only specific exams that result in a certificate rather than the 6 exams that can lead to the full diploma, the certicicates are roughly equivalent to the credit students get for AP exams. With the full diploma some colleges will waive Freshman year requirements. Even without the exams, colleges will know that students have taken challenging IB classes through the designation on their transcript.

Its been challenging for Berkeley High to fully implement such a demanding program for 250 students per grade; most IB programs are only provided to students that test in. It will be critical that resources and support continue to be available in this economic environment, but the program is strong, and should only improve with more time. S.

Dear Big Fan of IB

My daughter is a Junior in the IB program and will be part of the first graduating class of IB students at BHS. Theory of Knowledge will be offered for the the first time at BIHS when my daughter becomes a Senior so I can't speak to that class in particular.

When my daughter was a Freshman her classes were very easy for her and she said that much of what she studied in her core classes was a repeat of her middle school curriculum. But I think that the ease of her program in Freshman year was a plus in some ways as she came from a small middle school so being less stressed out about her classes helped with the adjustment process.

I know that my daughter was able to work with one or two of her teachers in terms of getting permission to work on things that she was interested in doing outside of the assigned work to avoid boredom. Maybe that's what your daughter can do in these closing months of her Freshman year?

Believe me the IB program will increase in scope and will challenge your daughter as she moves through the program. My daughter waited until Junior year to take AP classes and is taking all Higher Level IB classes. The work is very challenging for her and her teachers this year are absolutely fantastic in almost every class which I think makes all of the difference. With very few exceptions the Core instructors for IB have been a very good fit for my daughter.

Wishing you all the best. Another IB Fan

BIHS vs. Academic Choice

Jan 2009

Re: Entering freshman confused about AC vs. international program
My daughter, a BIHS junior who is an honors math student and has done well in AP classes, has found the BIHS program progressively more challenging each year (not to mention enriching--she's had great teachers, speakers and field trips). Freshman year was definitely the easiest. Beginning in Junior year BIHS students start doing community service hours and start working on an extended essay in addition to their regular course work. My daughter is also pursuing the IB Diploma which requires her to complete certain courses and sit for 6 fairly rigorous exams. I think your daughter will find the program challenging especially if she pursues the IB diploma, but if she does decide to leave BIHS, I've heard that there will a bunch of students from other programs at BHS who will be happy to take her spot. Mom of BIHS Junior

Would like some info about the IB program

December 2006

I would like to get some more information about BHS's IB program. Is it certain this program will begin, or is it still up in the air? We would love our kids to attend an IB program. I know there is a lottery for small schools at BHS -- what are the stats for kids getting their first choice?
Interested Parent

The IB program is up & running smoothly at BHS. Our son is in IB. (He's in 9th, perfect timing). The curriculum is intense & the entire staff for the IB program is dedicated & on-fire with their enthusiasm for what they are discussing this year. Last month I had the opportunity to accompany the IB kids on a field trip to San Fran, so I got to see first-hand the way the teachers interact with the kids and the way the kids approached the learning task for the field trip. I was impressed. Our son is getting the real world experience of being in a diverse urban public school while at the same time accessing the most rigorous & internationally recognized curriculum currently available. It's exactly what we wanted for him.

We could not be happier with the IB program and we had our hopes set fairly high. is a good resource if you want to get to know the curriculum.
mom of an IB student at BHS